Dancing in Jaffa
You don’t have to know much about dance to understand or even appreciate the incentives behind Dancing in Jaffa. When renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine decided to collaborate with writer/director Hilla Medalia to make this film, dancing was really only utilised as a vehicle to address a much greater issue: uniting Jewish and Palestinian Israelis.
This is an issue that holds great bearing with both Medalia and Dulaine, as each of them were born in or around Jaffa and know all too well the turmoil that still exists in their hometown. Their mission was to create a dance competition for children to compete in, with the one stipulation being that the pairs had to consist of Jewish-Palestinian partners.
As the film opens, the audience is introduced to the archaic and troubled world of these two groups. This is depicted brilliantly through first-hand accounts caught on camera and tragic recollections shared by the community. The transition from the copious negativity of daily protests and bombings into the candid positivity of youthful naivety and acceptance is near flawless from Medalia. This smooth shift in attitude is ushered in by the introduction of a test group of fifth-graders whose eagerness, sincerity and unrelenting will to try something new and contrary to their beliefs is entirely charming.
Despite the documentary doing many things right, one point of complaint is that it feels scripted at times. Although the children’s reactions appear completely genuine, some of the scenarios come off slightly contrived, which makes for a good story but jeopardises authenticity. The film does well, however, to pick out a few main characters and focus exclusively on them to showcase their development during the whole dance experience. One such character is a young girl named Noor, a troubled Palestinian girl whose sorrow derives from the death of her father. However, as the film progresses, Noor’s personality blooms, after she is selected for the dance competition.
Most of the children and parents who participated in the dance experiment appeared to grow closer as a result of the experience: through spending time together, encouraging one another and simply being positive in each other’s company. It seems Dulaine achieved his monumental goal – even if for just a short while.
Dancing in Jaffa is released nationwide on 13th February 2015.
Watch the trailer for Dancing in Jaffa here: